TUM Alumni Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier.

In the beginning, the three founders were literally taken by surprise by the great demand for their product. They still did the packing and shipping themselves. Today, they employ more than 20 people (Picture: Bärbel Schmidt / German Founders' Prize).

Alumni start-ups

Founders Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier

“We wanted to revolutionize homebrewing”

04. Mar 2019
Reading time Min.
Because they did not like the beers on sale in the supermarkets, three TUM alumni simply decided to brew their own. This hobby turned into a multi million start-up, which today makes homebrewing possible for customers in Germany, Asia and the USA.
Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier have already worked during their studies; whether it was at academic chairs, corporations or start-ups. Behind that decision was the three young TUM alumni’s drive to always be able to apply their theoretical knowledge straight away. Independently the students deemed UnternehmerTUM’s Manage & More scholarship to be the perfect programme to do just that. “We wanted to do interdisciplinary work on exciting projects together with like-minded people and to put our entrepreneurial skills to the test in a protected environment”, Ping Lu remembers.

The three students landed spots on the three-semester programme and met each other. In their free time they regularly went for after-work-beers in order to talk about their ideas and projects. The fact that they were always limited to a relatively small repertoire of tastes with regards to the beers available gave the three beer lovers the idea to brew their own. The enthusiasm for their own subject area, which Wolfgang Westermeier was able to see in many professors and tutors at university, was always very inspiring for him. “Naturally this was motivating to find something for yourself that is similarly exciting. For us it was the intention to revolutionize homebrewing.”

TURNING A HOBBY INTO A START-UP

This idea turned into a hobby, which transformed the flat-share kitchen into a brewing lab. Uncountable recipes and elaborate brewing methods were tested and eventually discarded. The young team’s goal was to not only playfully increase the diversity of beers but also to significantly simplify homebrewing itself. “We started to completely reinvent the homebrewing process”, Ping Lu recalls. It was meant to become simple, quick and uncomplicated.

After six months of puzzling, calculating and experimenting the young team was able to brew it’s first beer under the new concept – directly in the keg and within just one week. This way the complicated cleaning and bottling of conventional brewing kits could be avoided. In cooperation with two diploma  master brewers of TUM the taste was fine-tuned as a final step. A wide variety of yeasts, hops and malts were tested and numerous new formulas and beer types with natural flavours from American oak, grapefruit, mango and passion fruit to honey and lemon were customized.

TUM’s entire infrastructure made starting a business for us noticeable easier – and might even have made it possible in the first place.

Ping Lu

The demand for the brewing kit rose quickly so the three TUM alumni decided to turn their concept into a business just one and a half years after the first idea and while still in their studies. In the daytime they attended university and in night and weekend shifts they pushed ahead the establishment of their business with its own office, website and online shop. “It was indeed a balancing act”, Dominik Guber remembers. “What was interesting, however, was that each one of us found out that by dealing with the diversity of topics involved with starting a business one develops many qualities in order to absorb knowledge quickly, ask the right questions and draw conclusions rapidly. In turn, these skills are of course helpful for studying.”

TUM OFFERS A KEY TO SUCCESS

The three young entrepreneurs agree on the fact that the Manage & More programme significantly helped them in developing the idea and setting up the business. “The workshops and start-up support gave us the entrepreneurial tools of trade, and the events gave us the opportunity to present our prototypes”, Wolfgang Westermeier says in retrospect. “The programme also allowed us to build a large network and make contacts with business angels.” But also outside the Centre for Business Creation there are numerous experts at TUM who support young entrepreneurs. “We received technical advice from the Research Centre for Brewing and Food Quality”, says Ping Lu. “TUM’s entire infrastructure made starting a business for us noticeably easier – and might even have made it possible in the first place.”

In return for this support the three founders want to give back to their alma mater and at the same time inspire young students and entrepreneurs. They regularly participate in the TUM events and pass on their knowledge to the younger generations, speak about their business history, the support through the Centre for Business Creation and how to combine studying with starting a business. Today what the three young entrepreneurs tell the young students and entrepreneurs is what helped them make it themselves. They encourage them to be curious, brave and try different things and, most of all, to enjoy the ride. “And once you found something that you enjoy and that you are passionate about”, Dominik Guber says: “Give it your all!”

TUM Alumni Ping Lu, Dominik Gruber and Wolfgang Westermeier.

Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier (Picture: Bärbel Schmidt / German Start-up Award).

Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier

Bachelor Mathematics 2011, Bachelor Mechanical Engineering 2014 and Master Agricultural Sciences 2014

 

Having finished his bachelor’s thesis in Mathematics at TUM, Ping Lu attended lectures of the master’s degrees Mathematics and Business Administration for Natural Scientists until 2014. Dominik Guber is a trained IT specialist and completed his studies with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at TUM in 2014. After an apprenticeship in IT Management in 2009 and the bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2011, Wolfgang Westermeier also finished his studies at TUM with a master’s in Agricultural Sciences.

After Ping Lu, Dominik Guber and Wolfgang Westermeier had gone through the Manage & More programme at TUM’s Centre for Innovation and Business Creation they set up their company Customized Drinks GmbH in 2012. Here Ping Lu is in charge of IT, marketing and logistics, Dominik Guber for sales, investor relations and business development, and Wolfgang Westermeier deals with production, product development, procurement and public relations. In just under six years the young entrepreneurs have developed three do-it-yourself-sets in the beverage sector and achieve multi million sales volumes on the German, European, Chinese and now also the US American market. As one of the three best start-ups the company was nominated for the German Start-up Award in 2015. With its product Brewbarrel it was one of three finalists for the TUM Presidential Entrepreneurship Award in 2018.